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Teacher Satisfaction, Beans, and Oatmeal

A recent survey completed by MetLife shows that teacher satisfaction is lower than it has been in 20 years. The economic influence plays a very significant role in this perception: reduction in social and health programs, layoffs (66% polled have witnessed layoffs in their area), 76% have seen budget cuts, while needs appear to be increasing. Class size has increased as reported by 63% of those surveyed. Technology needs have not been kept up to date of students' needs... This list continues. A telling aspect of this survey ties outlook to budgets. This could very well be true and statistically relevant, too. But it presents a question. If the funds are not there, then what?

Ask any mother who has had to tighten up the purse strings what they can do with beans and oatmeal. Perhaps not the flashiest, most delicious, but very life sustaining. Bean soup, bean casserole, bean wraps, enchiladas, tacos, burritos... You might even find some beans in a meatloaf (oatmeal too) to add a little "bulk" to lean times. Point being, we've seen what moms can do with simple, but very good ingredients to sustain our healthy diets. What can we do when other resources are not there? Have you ever had a friend or known someone who grew up poor but didn't really notice or care much? There was so much love and a high level of quality family life that the lack of funds had less influence on how happy they were. So what can we do to improve the quality of "classroom achievement" life when funds are hard to come by?  Here are a few things we've seen work:

  • Improving teacher effectiveness. This is not saying that teachers are incompetent and need complete overhauls. Teachers are like anybody else in a professional field--they can get better, smarter, more efficient, adaptive, innovative, creative, nicer. (I just threw the "nice" in there for a quick reminder for those frustrating moments.) Teachers today have to be more adaptive than ever before because of the fluctuations of funds, influences on students--social media, technology, personal gaming devices, cell phones, bullying and the new types of cyberbullying, etc.--and the different levels of preparedness of each student.
  • Better engage students. Part of this improved effectiveness can simply be what teachers do in their classrooms. Achievement doesn't have to be influenced by the greatest new box of "technology" added to the classroom. It can and has happened when teachers learn how to be more engaging with students. Teachers can learn how to connect better with students so students begin to trust the teacher and believe in their teaching style--and improve their effort and achievement as a result.
  • Apply innovation. Teachers can use tools already at their use in new ways--create a classroom standard of higher achievement and better behavior. Teach the entire class how to perform to be successful in this new classroom setting. Show students how to be accountable and how to help other students when they need help.
  • Use parent involvemet in new and different ways. We recently blogged about parent involvement--or increased parent commitment as we like to think of it (a parent can be involved everyday at recess or with cutting out paper, but that really doesn't have as much affect on achievement.) We like to help teachers increase parent commitment to do their share of preparing kids at home. Following up with homework, asking kids how their day was or what they did at school, and having kids read out loud are great contributors to parent commitment. But again, with the many distractions and influences students face everyday, kids need more. Parents can learn how to prepare kids for a structured environment so the classroom environment is not such a shock. Parents can teach kids how to be successful in these environments--socially and academically. Remember, teachers, parents are doing all of this work at home. If parents knew what class goals were, they could reinforce these objectives at home--students learn much faster and better when they are taught the same principles in multiple environments. If students knew how to act in the classroom before entering the classroom, if students knew how to motivate themselves and develop self-learning awareness before they even arrived at school, teachers’ jobs would be far easier and productive. This might sound daunting, impossible, or crazy to parents, but the truth is, parents, you already have a certain type of structure at home. It is either one where you are prepared and proactively teach the good you want for your kids, or it is one where you just want the kids to "be quiet!" The point is, parents can learn how to be a more positive, constructive influence--which is a very powerful parenting tool, too--while also reinforcing and encouraging greater classroom achievement. It really doesn’t take that much more to do, as it turns out.

If students came to the classroom better prepared, and once there better understood how to participate successfully--academically and socially--would teacher satisfaction improve? If teachers could spend about the same amount of time teaching but get better results, greater contribution and commitment from others, and ultimately better student achievement, isn't that worth pursuing?

Which life would you rather have? One with all the greatest foods to eat and neatest toys, but lacking love, appreciation, respect, consideration, and a strong sense of community, or the life that is so fulfilling emotionally, socially, and academically that you don't really notice that you are having beans and oatmeal, again?

Bring on the bean loaf!

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